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Here’s something to think about the next time you’re trapped on the ever-less-dependable subway: the sanctity of marriage. Coming soon to the New York transit system is a national campaign promoting the ol’ ball and chain. “Married people earn more money.” “Kids of married parents do better in school.” “Married people live longer.” “Marriage works.” So say the get-hitched solicitations that have been plastered alongside photos of young brides and grooms in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., since February 1. It’s all part of a new marketing strategy from the abstinence-advocacy group Campaign for Our Children that is scheduled to hit New York’s subways and buses later this spring. The idea is that if teens learn to respect and look forward to marriage, they might not get pregnant before they tie the knot. The group, which is planning to take the message to other cities as well, is eligible to receive state and federal funding through the $870 million Helping America’s Youth initiative, a largely faith-based program announced by the Bush administration March 7. “We’re just trying to keep kids from having kids,” says Campaign for Our Children president Hal Donofrio. The MTA takes no official position on the ads, though spokesperson Tom Kelly cracks, “That campaign must’ve been invented by someone who’s not married.”
"If any object to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace," a minister intones over a wedding montage in the television ads.
"But before you speak up, consider that by marrying, this man and woman will be healthier, they will live longer, and be more financially secure. Their kids will have stability, do better in school and be less likely to break the law.
"Any objections? Good!"
As the commercial ends, these words appear on the screen: "Marriage works."
McManus promoted in his columns the Bush marriage initiative he was paid to promote. On the June 30, 2004, edition of CBS' The Early Show, McManus appeared to promote Marriage Savers as an example of a marriage education program the government was funding:
McMANUS: The fact of the matter is that we are failing in half of our new marriages, and the society has to pick up the cost. You and I have to pay more in taxes as a result of the failures of these relationships.
TRACY SMITH (Early Show correspondent): So in a move to promote domestic tranquility, the federal government is getting involved. It's actually part of the welfare reauthorization bill. What it means is that the federal government is spending millions on marriage education. And that begs the question: Is marital happiness something you can teach? The answer is, you can try.
Mike and Harriet McManus, who've been married for more than two decades themselves, run Marriage Savers, a program to iron out problems before a couple says 'I do.' It all costs less than $20 a couple. The goal of government funding is to make programs like it affordable to lovebirds all over the country.
Protect the boundaries of marriage.
For marriage to function as a social institution, the community must know who is married. To support marriage, laws and policies must distinguish married couples from other family and friendship units so that people and communities can tell who is married and who is not.
Treating cohabiting couples as if they were married is one example of such a legal change that tends to blur the distinction between marriage and non-marriage. The harder it is to distinguish married couples from other kinds of relationships, the harder it is for communities to reinforce norms of marital behavior, the harder it is for couples to identify the meaning of their own relationship, and the more difficult it is for marriage to fulfill its function as a social institution.
Treat the married couple as a social, legal, and financial unit.
Legal and public policy reforms that either treat married couples as if they were unmarried individuals or treat unmarried couples as if they were married are likely to weaken marriage as a social institution.
"...any law or public policy that explicitly operates on the principle that preferences for marriage are in themselves a form of discrimination against unmarried individuals cannot be viewed as a pro-marriage initiative."
Transmit and reinforce shared norms of responsible marital behavior.
Communicate a socially shared preference for marriage as the ideal family form, particularly to young people of reproductive age.